The Austin Chronicle

The Transporter Refueled

Rated PG-13, 96 min. Directed by Camille Delamarre. Starring Ed Skrein, Ray Stevenson, Loan Chabanol, Gabriella Wright, Tatiana Pajkovic, Radivoje Bukvic, Noémie Lenoir.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Sept. 11, 2015

The gas gauge rests on empty in The Transporter Refueled, a pitiful attempt to reboot a relatively successful Aughts franchise without the high-octane action star Jason Statham, who kicked and punched his way through the first three installments. This time around, newbie Ed Skrein sits behind the wheel as mercenary driver-for-hire Frank Martin, a man of few words who will transport any goods (material and human alike) for a significant fee, no questions asked. In a fashion, the character is a throwback to James Bond, with his classic black suit, propensity for fast cars, and irresistible ladies’ charm. But there’s no retro goofing on a bygone genre here. It’s all deadly serious, down to the last raspy bit of dialogue and blow to the groin. While Skrein is not a disaster on a George Lazenby scale, he comes off as someone trying extremely hard to affect a specific personality simply through imitation. With those high cheekbones and lean physique (not to mention an ever-present, slightly pissed-off facial expression), Skrein looks like he just walked off the runway at Milan, though the guy is pretty good when it comes to registering his hands as deadly weapons. (The Martin character famously does not pack a gun or knife as part of his work attire.) It’s a performance that doesn’t sink the film, but one that doesn’t (and to be fair, cannot) redeem it either.

What sinks The Transporter Refueled is its utter lack of fresh imagination, starting with a script seemingly written the night before shooting commenced. The revenge plot hatched by a quartet of prostitutes who model themselves after the Three Musketeers (don’t ask) against their hiss-worthy Russian pimp defies credulity, particularly the ease with which they use technology to drain private bank accounts of millions of dollars with just the swipe of a thumbprint. You can see this kind of cut-rate stuff at a more forgiving hour on late-night cable television. For the most part, the action scenes are nothing special, with the exception of an all-too-brief file cabinet jujitsu fight and one involving a lifesaving ring on a yacht. Clearly, director Delamarre lacks the chops to make the chops in the film worth watching. Granted, the preceding entries in the Transporter series were nothing extraordinary, but they were serviceable entertainments made all the more palatable by Statham’s grizzled turn as the snappily dressed Frank Martin. Without him in the driver’s seat – and more importantly, without a halfway-decent screenplay – it appears that this franchise has hit a dead end, running on nothing but fumes.

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